Last week Tucker Carlson over at Fox News did what guys in his business are supposed to do, he said something controversial in a controversial way. It made some headlines and even caught my attention way out here in Middle Earth. In discussing the Eagle’s quarterback Michael Vick, Carlson said that Vick should have been executed for torturing and killing dogs. Vick famously went to prison several years ago for cruelty to animals ending, it seemed then, a promising career as an NFL football player. After prison though, the Eagles signed him up giving him a second chance. President Obama made mention of his approval of giving Vick a second chance and this led to Carlson’s comment. What interests me is Carlson’s preface to his comment. He said, ‘Now, I am a Christian, I have made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances, but…’ And that is of concern to me. He doesn’t just believe Vick should have gotten a harsher sentence, (yes, I understand that the ‘execution’ rhetoric was probably (hopefully?) hyperbole) he believes that Vick should not have been given a second chance. Well, he is entitled to his opinion but is he entitled to claim his opinion is grounded in Christian teaching?
We talk about the ‘offense’ of the Gospel. We usually use this term when discussing why we need to speak out against homosexuals or drinking alcohol. As I look through the Word of God and study the life of Jesus ‘offense’ looks a little different to me. It seems that Jesus offended a lot people and almost always for the same reason: forgiveness. The Pharisees were mad at him for forgiving the sins of the paralyzed man. They were mad that he fellowshipped with sinners, that he ate with them, talked with them, and even seemed to like them. They were mad that he healed people on the Sabbath. It seemed there was no good deed or loving act that they couldn’t criticize. It was as if he knew what would really push their buttons. He talked to women, and not just any women, he went to Samaria and spoke words of comfort and hope to THOSE people.
The picture of Jesus that I keep in my head, the one that defines him for me personally is the story of the woman caught in adultery. In John 8 the religious leaders bring a woman caught in adultery before Jesus and ask him what they should do. The religious leaders believe that if he sides with the law and condemns her to stoning then the crowds will leave him because his message will not be new or hopeful. If he lets her off free then he would not be respecting God’s law and that would make him no true prophet. But you know what happened. He proclaimed that the one without sin should cast the first stone. At this point in the story I am waiting. Will he not pick up a brick, declare to all what they already know, that he is sinless and bash her in the head? No, he doesn’t. I do that, you do it too, but Jesus didn’t and still doesn’t. The woman is guilty. The laws were written for a reason and a purpose. They can not be ignored because we don’t like them or popular culture decides they no longer apply and yet, Jesus forgave this woman and let her go. This is why I love him and this is why the religious leaders of the day killed him. Not because he stood up for the law, for what was ‘right’, for morality, or anything else; he was killed because he forgave sinners. And this is so cool because it was his sacrificial death that enabled him to forgive sinners!
We are the older brother if we like it or not. We, as Southern Baptist Church members have grown up in our Father’s house and have done our duty. We go to the meetings, we pay the tithes, we do the work and we have watched in eager anticipation for the day when our younger brothers get what is coming to them. The drug addicts, the prostitutes, the crooks, the homosexuals, the guys who sleep in on Sunday morning, the divorced, the Democrats and anyone who voted for the Health Care Bill, those Church of Christ people, the evil, the lawless, the lawyers, and even those guys who believe the earth is getting warmer are all around us and we have been waiting for the fire to come down on their heads. Now, I am a Christian, I have made mistakes myself. I believe fervently in second chances, but… Jesse Jackson? Anyone in Hollywood? Most people in New Hampshire? Surely not these Lord! It couldn’t possibly be politically correct to kill a fatted calf for Michael Vick, right?
I was in a local friend’s house for New Year’s Eve. They have a son who is becoming increasingly Muslim fundamentalist in his outlook and belief. He usually wont come in and sit with us because we are kofirs (unbelievers). But Friday night he came in and sat across from me. After a while he began talking about religion. He said that there were not even 100 good Muslims in this Country, they all fell short of the law. They didn’t read and obey the law as they should and now they are building a large new mosque here in Gondor. He said, ‘Strider, we have satellites and compasses and all kinds of science to tell us exactly which direction Mecca is in but do you know what they are doing? They are building the Mosque to face directly West so the walls line up North, South, East, and West. When we pray we will be facing straight at Rome!’ I laughed out loud but he responded that this was ‘NOT FUNNY’. I disagree. It is hilarious and in the end it always is. Legalists can never satisfy the law no matter how hard they try. I told him that Jesus died to save us from our sins and that our works were useless. He was angry with me. ‘Jesus could not have died’, he said, the Koran says he didn’t die. Our only hope is in obeying the law. I told him that was no hope at all. Our only hope is to trust that the Jesus who forgave that woman, the Jesus who rescued the thief on the cross, the Jesus who loved little helpless children still loves and forgives today. I love my friend. I love him so much that I was willing to offend him by proclaiming a God who loves and forgives. Go out today and offend someone- it’s fun and it’s the Christian thing to do.